COLLEGE life is something my youngest brother will soon experience. His aspirations as a mechanical engineer, will first take him to Malaysia, where he will attend a programme which will hopefully lead to university in the United States.
It worries me to no end. In terms of being a student, he is more than able. He had recently turned 17, is an intelligent young man with a dry wit. He does well in school, despite occasionally getting in trouble, like every other student with more opinions then discipline.
What concerns me is his reading habits, or rather, the lack of. I questioned him on it the other day, during a rare moment I spent with him while my mother was overseas, attending a conference.
For him, reading was an activity consigned to textbooks. The last thing which he read that wasn't from an assignment or a textbook was a newspaper article some months ago, promoting a martial art.
I accepted the fact, long ago, he does not share my taste in literature which is in fantasy novels. However, in place of picking up something like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (by Seth Grahame-Smith) I was hoping he would be more proactive in his reading things that might have interested him.
I have written on this before, with the wealth of information at his fingertips, unrestricted access to the world's knowledge on the internet, I had hoped that he would regularly look up things related to his field of study.
Stuff like how the first automobile engine was made, the success and failures of the first space rockets, how engineering problems in factories, construction and design were solved. Things that someone aspiring to be a mechanical engineer would be naturally curious about.
From my conversations with him, I do not see that happening. He tells me frankly that it is stuff he will eventually learn about while he's in college and in university, and he would rather spend time "relaxing" while he can instead of "stressing" himself over knowledge that may not be in exam papers.
I do not need to say how disappointed I am to hear that.
I asked him, "so in the future, will that be how you read?" He said that he understood that his career will depend on his knowledge so according to him, he'll read more later.
I wonder if that would be enough, to trust him to eventually realise that reading regularly is for his own benefit, not for the benefit of his teachers, not for his parents or for myself.
I tried to convey to him that knowledge he sought on his own would be a hundred times more valuable than knowledge spoon-fed to him by lecturers, teachers and parents.
It is something I think that I have failed to do.
I offered to take him to any bookstore, and right there and then, buy him any book, so long as he reads it. He declined.
He told me frankly, he would rather watch a movie. Reading a book takes too long, and it was more efficient to just learn from documentaries and video-clips.
On hindsight, I suppose Bruneian bookstores, with their excessive stock of young adult novels and vampire books, selective international best-sellers and biographies, might not have anything to offer him in the first place.
Perhaps I will try a different approach, buy him a tablet and a subscription to a number of e-magazines that would cover science and physics. I have a feeling he would spend more time playing games with it then doing any actual reading, (as he does whenever I loan him my iPad), but maybe it is worth a shot.
I had not played an extremely active role in my brother's education. I did not encourage him to read while he was younger, as I had my own adolescent worries and concerns, my own education to look out for.
I am also not as close to him as some others might be to their siblings, we have lived apart for nearly a decade now, with me spending several years overseas followed by the eventual separation of my parents. Do I regret it? Yes. Because despite everything, I do love my brothers, and I want them to be successful and that is why I made many fruitless attempts to get my youngest brother to read. I am not sure anything will work, since he's at that age where rebellion is cool, and time grows shorter before he will finally depart overseas, but that doesn't mean I can stop trying. The views are author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Brunei Times.The Brunei Times
Thursday, June 7, 2012
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